European equities started December on a bright note, following a record November, after encouraging Chinese factory data prompted investors to look ahead to a global economic recovery.
The benchmark Stoxx 600 index rose 0.7 per cent in the first hour of trading, having gained almost 14 per cent in November. The UK’s FTSE 100, which on Monday closed its best month since 1989, opened 1.6 per cent higher. Germany’s Dax added 0.9 per cent.
This followed gains in Asia after a survey run by Chinese publication Caixin found industrial activity in November in the world’s second-largest economy was accelerating at its fastest pace in a decade. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index rose 0.9 per cent and Japan’s Nikkei 225 1.3 per cent.
“This validates the idea that, when you get the pandemic under control and you really manage to keep it low, economies can catch up extremely rapidly,” said Samy Chaar, chief economist at Lombard Odier.
Mr Chaar added that the composition of Joe Biden’s proposed administration signalled positive prospects not only for fiscal and monetary stimulus but also for a “progressive and gradual winding down” of pandemic emergency schemes that would not overly disrupt financial markets. Former Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen has been nominated to run the Treasury department.
The Caixin purchasing managers’ index produced a reading of 54.9 for last month, which was comfortably above the 50-level that separates growth from contraction and better than the expectations of economists polled by Reuters. This echoed similar findings from a government survey published on Monday.
Shares in economically and trade-sensitive companies were the best performers in Europe on Tuesday, with banks, energy producers and carmakers all rising.
Futures markets signalled a strong day on Wall Street. Contracts wagering on the direction of the blue-chip S&P 500 index gained 0.9 per cent while those on the technology-focused Nasdaq added 0.7 per cent.
Haven assets, which investors turn to in times of economic stress, continued to underperform. The dollar, as measured against a basket of trading partners’ currencies, hovered around its lowest since April 2018. Gold rose by less than 1 per cent to $1,793 a troy ounce but remained around its lowest since early July.
The Vix, which measures investors’ expectations of share price volatility on the S&P 500, fell to a reading of 20.2, its lowest since late February.
Brent crude, the international oil benchmark, slipped 0.3 per cent to $44.74 a barrel, having gained 27 per cent during November.
UPDATED | Authorities are urgently testing staff and guests at a city medi-hotel after revealing a shock development in the Parafield coronavirus cluster late this afternoon – which emerged as the Spanish man who allegedly “lied” to authorities last week, sparking a statewide lockdown, today broke his silence.
In a dramatic afternoon, the mystery Spaniard, in SA on a graduate visa, released a statement through his lawyer – expressing remorse but claiming some of the information about him had been inaccurate and unfair – while authorities revealed the infections of two recently returned overseas travellers are linked to the cluster – and were picked up while they stayed in a city medi-hotel.
The travellers are a husband and wife – both aged in their 20s in quarantine at the Peppers hotel on Waymouth St since their arrival on November 11 – who up until now authorities believed acquired the disease overseas.
Chief Public Health Officer Professor Nicola Spurrier told media at a hastily-assembled 5pm press conference that all staff and guests would be urgently tested, saying “we think this is being really abundantly cautious” and “we don’t expect to have any more positives”.
“It is very interesting information and of course my staff and I are working through the implications of this,” she said.
“I knew that COVID-19 was highly transmissible – it’s even more transmissible than what I had initially thought.”
She said even with the best PPE (personal protective equipment) and training “you can still transmit this virus”.
“It’s really sneaky,” she said.
Spurrier said she had details of the medi-hotel transmission chain but wouldn’t release that information to the public until a review had been finalised.
It comes amid another major development late today, as the Spaniard whose alleged “lie” sparked last week’s dramatic state lockdown expressed “extreme remorse” for his role in the drama, but declared, through his lawyer, that some information in the public debate “is not fair, accurate or complete, notwithstanding the State Government’s comments” about his alleged “lie”.
Professor Nicola Spurrier addresses media late today.
The male traveller’s case was announced today as SA’s only new reported COVID infection, with Spurrier earlier telling reporters it wasn’t linked to the cluster.
“We do have one new case in SA but it’s not part of the Parafield cluster,” she said this morning.
“It’s a close contact of a previously confirmed overseas arrival that we reported a couple of days ago.
“And this is a man in his 20s and he is in a medi-hotel, so it’s not associated with the Parafield cluster and it’s just that one case.”
But this afternoon, SA Health issued a press release saying genomic testing had now linked this case – as well as the woman’s infection – to the cluster, which now sits at 29 cases.
“Genomics test results have returned this afternoon linking two people – one of which is today’s case – to the Parafield cluster,” the statement said.
“Both these people were previously believed to have overseas-acquired COVID-19 infections.”
The statement said there was “no additional risk to the public as the cases are linked to a medi-hotel staff member who has previously tested positive for COVID-19 and contact tracing has already been undertaken”.
“As a precaution, we are undertaking additional testing at one of our medi-hotels for all staff and guests today,” the statement said.
An SA Health spokeswoman said it was unclear exactly which staff member the cases were linked to.
Three staff have tested positive – a cleaner, who authorities have previously said they believe is the original source of the cluster – and two security guards.
Spurrier today rejected the need for an independent inquiry into the medi-hotel system, saying “what we want to do is have continuous quality improvement”.
Asked if this was more evidence of a potential breach in the medi-hotel, she said she was “pretty confident there hasn’t been someone in the wrong room at the wrong time”.
She said the shock result – linking the two hotel guests to the Parafield Cluster strain – was “a bit unexpected”.
“I thought it was more likely the genomics would show the travellers had brought it in from a another country or whatever, but this is what we found,” she said.
Police and SA Health are already reviewing nearly 500 hours of CCTV from Peppers to determine the movements of staff and guests, as part of their investigation into the movements of another man who worked at the Stamford medi-hotel – a 36 year old Spanish national – whose alleged “lie” about his work arrangements prompted the unnecessary statewide shutdown.
That Spanish national, whose alleged “lie” sparked last week’s dramatic state lockdown – later aborted after the Premier declared the man had misled contact tracers – today broke his silence.
Solicitor Scott Jelbert, Principal at Camena Legal and Migration, issued a statement declaring he was “acting for the person under investigation for his conduct concerning contact tracing information and connected with the Woodville Pizza Bar and the recent COVID-19 shutdown in South Australia”.
“My client is in quarantine and I make this brief statement on his behalf,” he said.
“He is extremely remorseful and deeply sorry for any part his conduct played in any unnecessary lock-down actions.
“He did not foresee or intend that things might unfold as they have.”
Jelbert said that since entering quarantine his client “has had limited information about government media releases, public opinion and social media”.
“I am however instructed that some information is not fair, accurate or complete notwithstanding the State Government’s comments, and he is concerned he has been all but publicly named,” Jelbert said.
“My client’s current focus is on cooperating with the authorities and completing quarantine.
“He is sincerely concerned about the impact of the lockdown on South Australians.
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“My client has not been charged with any breach of the law but in the circumstances, including that such charges may emerge, no further comment about those matters is appropriate at this time.”
Spurrier was hesitant to respond to the man’s statement, but when asked if it was possible contact tracers might have misunderstood any information provided by him, she said: “We’ve got a range of staff, they are very well-trained. If we have problems and difficulties with language we do try and get an interpreter.
“There are sometimes language barriers, there are sometimes misunderstandings, we are talking about human beings here. But what I can say is that the contact tracers have done absolutely the very job that they can.”
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Approximately € 1.6 billion euros worth of Spain”s former currency, the Peseta, remains unaccounted for. And as the deadline to convert the currency draws closer, a charity is collecting the cash to help ease a burgeoning poverty crisis, and feed people in Madrid.
The old notes and coins are still convertible currency and now the organisation ‘Peseta solidaria’ has decided to put it to good use. To donate, all people have to do is sign up on their website. They collect them door to door, change them into Euros and then donate them to food banks.
For Laura Blanco, the organisation’s founder, this is a way of giving “a noble and generous end to the peseta”, allowing some Spaniards to help others in this time of need. Blanco goes on:
“Despite the crisis, they want to give something to others, and maybe they don’t have Euros, but they have Pesetas, and it’s a way to help. From a lady who lives in Getafe who had a collection of banknotes that her sister had left for her children, to a man who heard the news, but has no Internet or mail or anything, called the Food Bank and said I have eight kilos of coins, and I want to donate them”.
There are still millions worth of euros in pesetas like these in Spanish households. That is why the government has extended the deadline to convert them to euros, from this December to September 2021.
Mila Benito is involved with a food bank that benefits from the scheme:
“These are people who work and are in poverty, which is even worse, because they have such small salaries that they don’t make ends meet. Several times I’ve picked up the phone to people who told me that they used to volunteer at the food bank and help others, and now they call because they need the help. And there is an added problem because we come from the crisis of 2008, so there were no savings left in the families”.
Before the pandemic there were around 350,000 people living in poverty just in the capital Madrid. The Food Bank fears, due to COVID-19, the situation will reach crisis point in January.
It’s not like it impacted football in Australia alone. Clubs throughout the world are suffering, broadcast deals are being slashed, salaries are being reduced, squad sizes are shrinking and coaches such as Milicic are being inundated with expressions of interest.
“I don’t know how people get my number or my email,” Milicic told the Herald.
When I ring Markel to speak to him on the phone … he’s jogging with his face mask on. He’s scared to pull it down to even talk to me.
Ante Milicic on why Markel Susaeta joined Macarthur FC
“I get bombarded daily from players, particularly in Europe, about squads getting cut down, money getting cut down, wanting to come to Australia.
“I can’t physically watch them all on [scouting program] InStat. But every day I get a heap, and I’m sure every other A-League coach does, too.”
One-time Manchester City, United and Liverpool target Benat, 33, and Bilbao icon Susaeta, 32, should probably be well out of the A-League’s reach. With more than 600 games of La Liga experience between them, their decision to move to Macarthur is a serious coup not just for the club but the competition – even though that doesn’t appear to have dawned on many supporters just yet.
Even Milicic admits it feels “too good to be true” when he sees their names on his whiteboard – although he does caution that while they are terrific signings on paper with potential to dominate the competition, the A-League is a unique beast, and not every foreign player adapts to it easily.
But there’s another COVID-related factor at play: how well Australia has handled the disease, in contrast with Europe in particular.
Benat and Susaeta have young families and were desperate to get out of Spain, which is in the grips of a deadly second wave and recording nearly 20,000 new cases a day.
When they arrive in Sydney later this month, they’ll get to enjoy something approaching normality – which, to them, easily outweighed any extra money they might have earned elsewhere, probably while living in a hotel under strict protocols.
“The best way I can explain it is when I ring Markel to speak to him on the phone he’s jogging with his face mask on,” Milicic said. “He’s scared to pull it down to even talk to me. It’s lockdown. You can’t get to a gym now. Cases going, winter’s coming – where’s the end line?
“Now you look at Australia – it’s not hard to Google what’s Sydney like, what’s the [infection] rates like, the hospitals, everything. It’s a full package.”
The other part of the equation is nothing new and has helped lure big-name stars from Dwight Yorke to Alessandro Del Piero to the A-League: the Australian lifestyle, and the glamour of Sydney in particular, still has serious pulling power.
“I don’t want to get into a debate about which city’s the best, but Sydney’s Sydney,” Milicic said.
“Put it this way, on December 31st, when CNN shows all the countries around the world on New Year’s Eve, they show Sydney. They don’t show any other city from Australia.
“These players, when they want to come with their young families for lifestyle, to learn English … you want to come to Sydney.”
Vince is a sports reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald.
It was one of the lowest acts committed on an Australian sporting field when a team of Spanish basketballers conned their way to a gold medal at the Sydney 2000 Paralympics.
Former Australian Paralympians say they still feel angry at the cheating that robbed them of a chance to compete for years
Former president of the Spanish Federation of Sports for the Intellectually Disabled has been found guilty of fraud
Athletes want others to learn from the incident, saying it can happen again
Through a brazen conspiracy that took years to fully resolve, able-bodied team members posed as athletes with an intellectually disability (ID) to win.
The fraud resulted in a controversial worldwide ban on intellectually disabled Paralympic sports for more than a decade, ending many promising careers and leaving athletes “lost and depressed”.
Some administrators believed it was a harsh but necessary move to tighten regulations, while others claimed it was an overreaction that the sport was still recovering from.
Twenty years later, the Australians caught in the fallout, including the basketballers who went toe to toe with the Spanish team, have never forgotten how their lives were changed by this ultimate deceit.
‘A free trip to Australia’
The Sydney 2000 Paralympics is a bittersweet memory for retired Boomerang basketballer Bradley Lee.
The former co-captain can still remember the emotional highs of playing in front of stadiums filled with passionate Australian supporters.
But his recollections turn dark when he thinks about what was really going on behind the scenes.
Spain had stacked its team with 10 out of 12 able-bodied players.
The fraud was exposed in the aftermath of the games by one of Spain’s players Carlos Ribagorda, a journalist who said he joined the team to boost his country’s chances.
He said the only test he had been asked to complete at his first training session was six press-ups, after which his blood pressure was taken.
The revelation made headlines around the world and sent shock waves through the International Paralympic Committee (IPC).
Athletes with intellectual disability were banned from Paralympic competition for the next 12 years and the eligibility and testing protocols were overhauled.
“I wanted to gut them with a butter knife, putting it bluntly, they’re just a bunch of low-lives,” Mr Lee said.
‘I still live with depression’
Riding a wave of national enthusiasm following the Olympics weeks earlier, the Boomerangs were confident of a top placing.
But after meeting Spain in the earlier rounds, coach Tony Guihot said many felt that the playing field was not fair.
Mr Lee said the Spanish team “flogged” them.
“They blew everyone off the court,” he said.
“I suspected it, but I didn’t voice it. I thought ‘bloody hell’ … it was a totally different team.”
Swimmer Siobhan Paton was one of Australia’s top performers at the games, winning six medals.
The teenager continued to train for the next four years in the hope of competing at Athens.
After being told she could not complete, she spiralled into a depression that has lingered for the better part of two decades.
“I ended up in hospital for six weeks, I was dejected, angry … I still live with my depression,” she said.
While the period is among the darkest of her life, she said it was an important reminder of the harm cheating could cause.
“It could happen again if people are not careful, and they need to know it hurts,” she said.
For years, Sports Inclusion Australia chief executive Robyn Smith lobbied for better inclusion of ID sports.
She felt the Sydney games had set a new standard; it was the first time medalled events were included in the schedule and Australian athletes rose to the challenge.
Telling these sportspeople that they could no longer compete at the highest level was devastating.
“I had many of our top-level athletes ringing saying, ‘I didn’t cheat, I don’t understand,'” she said.
“That was heartbreaking, to go from being heroes to then being kicked out of the movement.”
She said it left many feeling lost.
“I understand that the IPC needed to clear the air and ensure the eligibility system was robust, but it took a long time and a lot of excellent athletes missed out,” she said.
It was not until 2013, when the full extent of the corruption was found to stem from one of Spain’s leading sporting administrators — Fernando Martin Vicente.
In a Madrid court, the former president of the Spanish Federation of Sports for the Intellectually Disabled was found guilty of fraud and fined $7,766.
A total of 18 people were charged as a result of an investigation.
Rise of the Global Games
Despite their disappointment, the Australian ID movement pushed ahead and continued to have funding support from a host of national sporting bodies.
Avenues for elite competition still existed through the Global Games, an event dedicated to athletes with an intellectually disability since 1986.
In 2004, the Global Games once again became a peak sporting event for these athletes, although they did not receive the same attention as the Paralympics.
“It was clear that they were an excellent way to go forward,” Ms Smith said.
The Global Games is now the world’s largest event of its kind, with thousands of participants.
After years in the wilderness, a handful of ID athletes were welcomed back at the London 2012 games.
While the changes were too late for Ms Paton, she has chosen to focus on her medal-winning performances, rather than the cheats who ended her Paralympic career.
“I feel very proud of my medals today, it took a lot of patience and support,” she said.
CARDEDEU, Spain — Andreu Canet turns 100 next month. And his birth year, as it turned out, was a curse.
Having been drafted into Spain’s Republican army at 17, he is now a rare survivor of a contingent of about 27,000 soldiers dubbed the “baby bottle conscription.” They were all born in 1920 and called up by the Republican government in 1938 to replenish the army’s ranks as it prepared a last-ditch attempt to stop Gen. Francisco Franco from winning the country’s civil war.
This July, as he has done every year for the past three decades, Mr. Canet made his annual journey to a peace monument built on hilltops near the Ebro river — the site of a major counterattack launched by Republican troops in July 1938. The already difficult pilgrimage was made even harder by the pandemic. And for the first time, he said, he was the only one who turned up on the day of the commemoration.
“Perhaps I’m in fact the only one left alive by now,” he said wistfully.
Mr. Canet’s story is just one chapter in a civil war legacy that Spain is still trying to come to terms with.
In September, the government led by Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez presented a draft bill aimed at reviving and extending a 2007 law to facilitate the opening of more than 2,000 mass graves scattered across Spain and to identify the remains of those inside. Most are believed to have died during or just after the war, which took place from 1936 to 1939.
The government also wants to close down any venture or institution that glorifies Franco’s dictatorship, and to revamp the giant underground mausoleum from which his remains were exhumed last year and transferred to a cemetery where his family already had a crypt.
Looking back on the war, Mr. Canet said he was utterly unprepared for battle when he was drafted at 17.
“We had to bring our own clothing and a blanket, and I fought in my espadrilles because my family was simply too poor to afford shoes,” he recalled in a recent interview in his apartment in Cardedeu, about 25 miles northeast of Barcelona. “We got zero training and zero instructions about what we would be doing, and I, of course, had never seen the Ebro until I was told to get across it.”
Their crossing of the river, which slices across northwestern Spain, enabled the Republicans to regain some of the territory that Franco had conquered. But under heavy bombing by German and Italian planes flown by his fascist allies, the Republican advance soon ground to a halt, and the fighting turned into the war’s longest, largest and most deadly battle.
While historians have offered different numbers, most estimate a death toll of at least 20,000 soldiers from both sides during the nearly four months that the battle endured. Once the Republican forces were pushed back across the Ebro, Franco secured his victory, which then paved the way for a dictatorship that lasted until his death in 1975.
Mr. Canet, whose 100th birthday is Nov. 30, said he could still vividly remember both the trench warfare that followed the treacherous river crossing and the aftermath of the conflict. He spent the first part of the postwar period in a military hospital recovering from typhoid, which he probably caught while stationed on a rat-infested islet in the middle of the Ebro.
“The rats kept crawling over my face when I was trying to sleep,” he said.
He shunned any notion of heroism and said that his military promotion, eventually to the rank of sergeant, reflected more a shortage of officer candidates than his own merits.
“When we captured our first hill,” he recalled, “what I really remember is how tired and thirsty I was, being even forced to drink my own urine, and how little sense of pride there was when so many others had already died.”
He teared up when recalling the cruelty of some of his commanders, who once threatened to shoot him for falling asleep during a night watch.
After surrendering to Franco’s troops, Mr. Canet was conscripted again — but this time into military service in Franco’s army. His battalion, based in the northern city of Burgos, was filled with defeated Republicans.
“The war had been horrible,” Mr. Canet said, “but so then was my military service under officers who hated us, while suffering the humiliation of marching through villages where children spat at our feet.”
And although Mr. Canet was the only one who showed up for this year’s commemoration, Víctor Amela, a writer who recently published a book about the conscription, said the veteran was probably not the only surviving member of the “baby bottlers.” Mr. Amela estimates that there are about a dozen survivors left, most of them living in the Catalonia region.
He said that the monument near the Ebro, erected in 1989, had been financed by former soldiers and their families because “the Spanish state has sadly refused to look back and confront the legacy of our civil war, let alone offer an apology to a bunch of children who were forced to fight in it.”
The “baby bottle” conscription showed “the most miserable side of a very ugly war,” Mr. Amela said, as most of the enlisted teenagers came from poor families without the personal connections that allowed others to avoid the draft. “I feel that it is a crime that a government sent 17-year-olds to an almost certain death, in full knowledge of how superior Franco was by this late stage of the war.”
Once Mr. Canet finally returned to civilian life in late 1943, he worked in a factory that made fountain pens and then set up his own shop in the entrance hall of one of Barcelona’s subway stations, where he sold and repaired pens, lighters and watches.
Until he grew more frail, Mr. Canet said, he enjoyed visiting schools to tell children about the experiences of the “baby bottle conscription” in hopes of keeping the soldiers’ memory alive.
But he is unimpressed by the government’s latest attempts to set right the historical record of the war.
“It just all feels too late,” he said. “The current generation has no idea what the war was really like, and no government has actually ever done anything for us.”
The mayor of Mexico City, the country’s largest city, called on residents to avoid gatherings of more than 10 people as the capital grapples with a surge of coronavirus hospital admissions.
Health authorities have been warning that large gatherings, such as the November 1-2 Day of the Dead festivities that usually draw hundreds of thousands of people nationwide, could prompt another wave of infections.
The pandemic has led to more than 874,000 infections and killed nearly 87,900 people in Mexico.
Mexico City mayor Claudia Sheinbaum said that from October 10 to 19, total coronavirus hospitalizations in the capital rose to 2,775 from 2,565, still far below the peak of 4,575 hospitalized patients in late May.
She added that six out of 10 beds hospital beds are still available for COVID-19 patients. Mexico City will remain at the second-most restrictive level on a four-level scale of health measures but cemeteries that typically host Day of the Dead celebrations will be closed for the holiday, Sheinbaum said.
“We’re not at the level to return to ‘red,’” Sheinbaum told reporters, referring to the strictest level of containment measures. “But we’re also not in a situation to open new activities.”
She recommended that gatherings be limited to no more than 10 people after large weddings, baptisms and other celebrations in which proper health measures were not observed led to the spread of the virus.
Large wildfires may be linked to increases in Covid-19 cases and deaths in the San Francisco area, according to a paper in the European Review for Medical and Pharmacological Sciences.
Researchers found that between March and September, increases in smoke particles, other wildfire pollutants and carbon monoxide levels corresponded to increases in daily virus diagnoses and total deaths.
While correlation does not necessarily mean causality, co-author Sultan Ayoub Meo, of King Saud University in Saudi Arabia, said air pollution provides a means for viruses to move around the environment.
These tiny pollution particles, along with the micro-organisms they carry, “can easily be inhaled deep into the lungs and cause infections,” Meo said.
“Carbon monoxide is a highly toxic gas which can damage our lungs, resulting as a triggering factor for an increase in Covid-19 cases and deaths in the wildfire region,” he told Reuters.
Turkey will evaluate possible new measures to combat the spread of the coronavirus as the outbreak flares nationwide, President Tayyip Erdogan said.
Turkey reported another 2,165 people with Covid-19 symptoms on Friday, the highest one-day figure since May when Ankara imposed a series of restrictive measures. The death toll from the virus rose to 9,658 on Friday, health ministry data showed.
“Our health minister is visiting various provinces … We are working on what sort of measures we will take there,” Erdogan told reporters after Friday prayers in Istanbul.
“As of now, what sort of measures are to be taken will be conveyed to us from the science team, and we will take our steps according to that,” he said.
Health minister Fahrettin Koca said earlier that 40% of the total cases across the country were reported in its largest city, Istanbul, where there were five times more than in the capital Ankara.
Speaking to reporters after meeting local officials in five provinces in north-west Turkey, Koca said there had been a risky spike in the Covid-19 case numbers, and the second peak is underway in some cities.
Iran is planning new restrictions, including state employees working every other day in the capital, Tehran, after a record surge in coronavirus cases on Friday, a senior official said.
Iran’s health ministry reported 6,134 new cases for the previous 24 hours, bringing the national tally to 556,891 in the Middle East’s hardest-hit country.
“One decision by the Tehran Coronavirus Taskforce is for staff at state bodies to be cut by 50% next week, and coming to work every other day,” taskforce head Alireza Zali told state news agency Irna.
He said authorities were also looking into having various job categories start work at different times to ease crowding and traffic.
The restrictions were expected to last for about a month in Tehran, where the coronavirus spread has been particularly alarming, Zali added.
Health ministry spokeswoman Sima Sadat Lari earlier told state TV that 335 people had died of Covid-19 in the past 24 hours, bringing total fatalities to 31,985, as Iran fights a third wave of the disease.
Meanwhile, flag-carrier IranAir said it was resuming European flights which had been suspended in March because of the pandemic.
The EU’s disease control agency joined health workers across Europe in sounding the alarm about the surge in coronavirus infections as the World Health Organization warned of an “exponential” rise in cases.
Several countries in Europe are reporting infection rates higher than during the first wave of the pandemic in March and April, with Spain saying it has now more than three million cases.
Governments across the continent are slapping urgent new restrictions on daily life, with France extending a curfew to cover 46 million people and Ireland locked down again.
“The continuing increases in Covid-19 infections… pose a major threat to public health, with most countries having a highly concerning epidemiological situation,” said Andrea Ammon, director of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC).
The agency said all EU countries except Cyprus, Estonia, Finland and Greece fell into a “serious concern” category, as did the United Kingdom, up from just seven a month ago.
The WHO said the northern hemisphere was facing a crucial moment in fighting the pandemic.
“Too many countries are seeing an exponential increase in Covid-19 cases and that is now leading to hospitals and intensive care units running close to or above capacity – and we’re still only in October,” WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.
Covid-19 was the main cause of death for 543 people in Moscow in September, up 21% from August, the Russian capital’s healthcare department said, as the spread of the coronavirus widened.
Moscow, the city worst hit by the pandemic in Russia, said it had recorded 11,159 total deaths in September, 1,441 more than in September 2019 and 1,702 more than the average of the previous three years.
Earlier on Friday, authorities said Russia’s daily tally of new coronavirus cases had hit a record 17,340, including 5,478 in Moscow, taking the national tally to 1,480,646 since the pandemic began.
They said 283 people had died in the last 24 hours, bringing the official death toll to 25,525 in Russia.
The number of people in England testing positive for coronavirus rose more than 50 per cent in the most recent week for which data is available, while fewer than seven out of 10 who had been in contact with them were reached and advised to self-isolate.
The latest figures from England’s test and trace programme painted a grim picture of a system under enormous pressure, with test turnround times plummeting and contact tracers struggling to find people before they can spread the disease to others.
For the week to September 30, statistics showed 51,475 people tested positive for the first time, a 56 per cent increase on the previous week, data released on Thursday showed.
Positive cases “have been rising steeply over the past five weeks with over seven times as many positive cases identified in the most recent week compared to the end of August”, the programme said.
The numbers tested for the first time, at 588,895, were similar to the previous three weeks but an increase of 27 per cent compared with the end of August. Turnround times for “pillar 2” testing – which covers most of the population – have lengthened sharply.
In the most recent week, 60.8 per cent of in-person tests results were received the day after the test was taken compared with 70.6 per cent the previous week. The number transferred to the contact tracing system rose 19 per cent compared with the previous week, and is now almost seven times higher than it was at the beginning of August.
Of those transferred, 74 per cent were reached and asked to provide information about their contacts, a slight fall from 74.6 per cent in the previous week and at about the same level as it was when Test and Trace launched more than four months ago.
More than 100,000 people were identified as coming into close contact with someone who had tested positive and where details about how to reach them were available, 82.2 per cent were found and asked to self-isolate. But taking into account all contacts identified, just 68.6 per cent were reached.
Layla McCay, director at the NHS Confederation, which represents healthcare organisations across the country, said if the test and trace system did not improve its ability to contact people who may have Covid-19 in time to prevent them infecting others, “the NHS will find it incredibly difficult to cope this winter”.
“The fact that new lockdown measures could be brought in imminently is unfortunately an indication that the current system simply isn’t doing its job”, added Dr McCay. She pointed out that the data did not yet reflect about 16,000 cases missed through a recent IT error.
WHEN DEMOCRACY came to Spain in the late 1970s, it arrived through agreements between moderate supporters of the long dictatorship of Francisco Franco, the victor in the Spanish civil war, and a realistic democratic opposition. At their heart was an amnesty law and a broad understanding not to use the past as a political weapon—arrangements often misleadingly dubbed a “pact of forgetting”. This largely seamless transition was widely hailed as a success. But younger generations, mainly on the left, now worry that Spain never acknowledged the crimes of its past.
A first attempt to redress this came with a law of “historical memory” in 2007, which aimed to remove fascist symbols from public buildings and recognise the mistreatment of Franco’s victims, but was only partly implemented. Now the minority left-wing coalition government of Pedro Sánchez has unveiled a draft law of “democratic memory” that would go further.
The draft is a mixed bag. Many welcome a plan to recover the remains of victims of the civil war and the repression that followed its end. The government hopes to find up to 25,000 skeletons in five years or so. The law would also annul the verdicts of Franco’s summary trials and withdraw titles and medals awarded by the dictatorship. The Valley of the Fallen, the grandiose basilica from which Franco’s remains were removed by the government last year, will be redesignated as a civilian cemetery (rather than a church) and run by the state (rather than the Benedictine monks on whom Franco bestowed it).
More questionable are powers to shut down groups that “exalt” or “apologise for” the dictatorship, such as the Francisco Franco Foundation, a private archive for nostalgics run from an obscure Madrid flat. The foundation says this is an “attack on freedom of thought” and threatens to move to the United States. The law would also require schools to incorporate “democratic memory” into the history curriculum. Whether that will lead to good history or official propaganda is unclear.
Most troubling is that the bill sets up a special prosecutor to investigate human-rights abuses from 1936 to 1978. This is largely futile, since most perpetrators are dead. It also comes close to overturning the amnesty law, out of a conviction that justice and truth should retroactively outweigh peace and reconciliation.
The conservative opposition claims the bill is a smokescreen to hide government mismanagement of the pandemic. It objects, too, to the likelihood that it will be approved with the parliamentary votes of Basque and Catalan separatists, who reject the current constitution.
The bill’s defenders contrast Spain’s tolerance of Franco with Germany and Italy. But Spain’s history is different. If the government really wants to resolve unfinished business from the past, it should have tried to agree on the bill with the opposition. For all its virtues, the bill uses the past as a political weapon. And that is bad for Spanish democracy.
This article appeared in the Europe section of the print edition under the headline “A law to fight Franco”
Seventy migrants jumped overboard today and swam away from the Spanish NGO ship that had rescued them as they tried to reach Italy.
They are part of a group of 270 people who have been stranded for days off the coast of the Sicilian city of Palermo on the Spanish rescue vessel Open Arms.
The desperate swimmers became frustrated by the diplomatic wranglings over who should take custody of them and so headed for shore in their life jackets, the local Giornale di Sicilia reported.
Open Arms rescued three separate groups in the Mediterranean between September 8 and 10. The crew are still waiting for instructions on where the migrants will be allowed to disembark.
Desperate migrants jumped from the Spanish rescue vessel Open Arms on Thursday in an attempt to swim to the Sicilian City of Palermo
The Sicilian coast can be seen in the background as migrants wearing orange life jackets attempt to swim to shore
The Italian coastguard has ferried two pregnant women and one of their husbands onto dry land in recent days, while the rest remain on board.
So far this year 47,379 migrants have arrived by sea into Italy, Greece, Spain, Cyprus and Malta.
Another 4,837 have made the crossing into Greece and Spain via land.
The United Nations estimates that around 500 migrants have died or gone missing attempting to make the crossing in 2020.
The figures are similar to the last few years but a sharp drop off from the peak of the crisis in 2015 when more than a million arrived through the Mediterranean. An estimated 3,771 died or went missing that year.
This year the majority of the migrants (20.3 percent) have come from Tunisia, followed by Algeria (12.7 percent), Bangladesh (8.1 percent), Afghanistan (7.5 percent) and Syria (7.3 percent).
Data from the United Nations shows that so far this year 47,379 migrants have arrived by sea into Italy, Greece, Spain, Cyprus and Malta
After being for years the primary route into Europe for hundreds of thousands of asylum seekers and other migrants, Italy has seen a drop in arrivals after a crackdown on smuggling networks.
However, numbers have picked up again in 2020 although Rome banned rescue ships from docking in its ports due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Sometimes those saved at sea are transferred to ferries and quarantined there, off the Italian coast.